Almost three years ago I wrote a posting titled Musings- Life And Lemons. About a month ago, life served me a big lemon. I should be used to lemons by now, you’d think. I mean life is a big mixture of lemons and strawberries – or bananas, or mangos, or whatever other fruit is your current sweet-flavored favorite. But somehow, I guess, there’s a subconscious part of me that thinks I should be exempt from lemons, despite the fact that they keep appearing on my plate, and so they tend to side-swipe me when they happen.
So what’s the latest and greatest in the lemon orchard you’re wondering. It may or may not help to understand why I think this latest event on the road that is my life is a lemon, a big lemon. I’m sixty-eight years old. So, OK, technically I was only sixty-seven when this lemon appeared on my radar. But that’s another reason it was a big lemon – it messed up my birthday!!
On Friday 27 April, I headed down to Winter Park to participate in the last-but-one class of the second year of my Audire course. Ruth, my friend who has just completed her third and final year of Audire, drove us down in her truck/van/SUV (not sure which label fits her vehicle; suffice to say it’s big enough and strong enough to haul a good sized trailer). We always go down on the Friday night before class so we can get a good night’s sleep and avoid having to get on the road at o’dark thirty to be at San Pedro retreat center by 8.30am on Saturday morning.
As always, I met up with my dear friend Bickley to enjoy a superb dinner. The dinners with Bickley are always wonderful because we choose a different ethnic restaurant each month so that we can delight our palates. She and I are food aficionados and most of her other local friends are “plain-American-fare” eaters, so she doesn’t get to indulge her more exotic taste buds very often. We had a great Cuban meal that Friday evening and enjoyed even more wonderful friendship time as we caught up with each other since the previous month – which had actually been two months because of the strange class schedule we had this year.
After dinner, Bickley dropped me back to San Pedro and I settled in for the night. Before getting ready for bed, I called my husband, Richard, to tell him about my enjoyable evening with Bickley and to say goodnight. Everything normal so far; not even the hint of a lemon. I prepared myself for the night and got into bed and, out of nowhere, I started experiencing some serious abdominal pains. My immediate thought was “oh no, food poisoning!”. I got out of bed and made a mint tea (good for digestion) and made sure I had a large container of water beside the bed. The pains continued and I resigned myself to “waiting it out”, flushing my system with the tea and lots of water.
By midnight I was worried. The pain hadn’t eased up so I called Ruth who was in the room next to mine. I could tell that she had been deep in sleep. What I couldn’t know was this was the first night she had been able to get to sleep fairly early after two very stress-filled weeks and lots of disturbed nights. I explained what was going on and asked her if she thought I should “call someone”. Ruth sleepily agreed that it sounded like food poisoning and said that there wouldn’t be anything anyone could do and that I would just have to wait for it to “go through my system”. She did however suggest that I lie down quietly and gently massage my tummy and think happy thoughts.
At 3am I was a little mentally hysterical. It occurred to me that the pain hadn’t diminished and it had not even begun to “move through my system”. It was a steady low-burning pain in both my upper and lower abdomen and there wasn’t a single sign of a rumble, a gurgle, a grumble anywhere in my intestines. It was at this point that I made a decision to call 911 and get help. I called Ruth and let her know and she said to open my door so she and the paramedics could get in.
At this point I will make a long story short. A shot of morphine, a 4-mile ambulance drive, a three-hour ER stay, and one cat scan later, the ER doctor informed me that I had an acutely inflamed appendix. Now I ask you, isn’t appendicitis a “kid thing”? Or at very least, a “teen thing”? When was the last time you heard of a sixty-seven year old having acute appendicitis? So what was I to do? “That can’t be”, I firmly told the ER doctor. (Fortunately my husband hadn’t quite arrived at the hospital by then so was spared the embarrassment of that moment.) Hopefully the ER doctor made allowances for the fact that I was under the influence of morphine.
So at about 2pm on Saturday 28 April 2012, I was surgically separated from my appendix. As I waited for surgery, I remember feeling irritated that I was missing class, especially as it was a class that I had been particularly looking forward to. I also remember being frustrated because our next class was in just two weeks and I had to prepare an end-of-year integration paper as well as other homework and I wasn’t going to be in the best of shape for the next few weeks. I found myself thinking that it was my birthday in a few days and how was I supposed to celebrate if my head was still full of anesthetic and narcotic pain-killers, and my body was still weak from the whole surgery thing. This was a very bitter lemon indeed.
Thank God I got out of that kind of thinking pretty quickly! I cannot remember if I got there myself or if it was Richard who spoke it into reality, but I do remember at some point being grateful that the acute appendectomy was happening now and not closer to our trip to Italy at the end of June; even more grateful that it didn’t happen during that trip! I remember suddenly being grateful that I was being taken care of and receiving good medical attention (the staff at Memorial Hospital, Winter Park, FL were all wonderful!). And I remember also feeling grateful that I had decent medical insurance that covered this care. I got to making lemonade fairly quickly, especially once I got my pain meds!
I went home just a little over twenty four hours after being taken to OR, thanks to the wonders of laparoscopic surgery, and I experienced gratitude on a whole other level. I was truly grateful that Richard is retired now and is always at home (didn’t think I would be saying that so very sincerely!), and for the very intimate and personal care that he gave me as I made my recovery from this whole event. I was grateful for all the prayers and cards that friends sent my way and the telephone calls that showed how much they cared.
Another lesson in gratitude learned. Another lesson in being flexible and to expect the unexpected. I got my integration paper done in time despite having a befuddled brain for a few weeks (anesthetic can really mess you up mentally as well as take your knees out from under you physically), and I was well enough to attend my class two weeks later. My birthday celebration was low-key and a little delayed but it was still a celebration. In fact it was more of a celebration (internally at least) because I was still around to celebrate. So, even though I’m a slow learner, I am still teachable and I am learning to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.
As promised in my posting on September 10th, here are some more “words of wisdom” from others. They are almost all simple one-liners – but they are not in the least bit simplistic!
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” (Anonymous)
“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.” (Mother Teresa)
“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”
“If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can, and there is nothing more to it than that.”
“I always treat people as if they have already reached the goal I have for them.” (Thomas Merton)
“If I am not for myself, who will be? And if I am for myself alone, then what am I? And if not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel)
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.” (Henry Ford)
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” (Anonymous)
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” (Soren Kierkegaard)
“God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.” (Jim Elliot)
So take these words of wisdom into your day today and spend some time pondering their meaning in your heart. Carry them deep into your soul and see how and if they apply to the “reality you are experiencing”!!
So while I collect my thoughts and get ready write on some specific topics that have come up for me over the past couple of months, let me share some words of wisdom from others. I think if I had lots of money I would have a house with a huge library that would house not only lots of books, but collections of all the words that I have read over the years that have impacted me deeply or influenced me in some way. Here are a few more of those precious words.
“Everything that I think, feel,say, and do belongs to me, and everything that you think, feel, say, and do belongs to you.” (Paul Ferrini)
“I cannot think myself into a new way of living; I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.” (AnShin Thomas)
“Know that making a commitment to your happiness, to your health, to your fitness, to your family, to your abundance, to your career, to your mission in life, to your love, to your friends, to your community, to your creativity, to your spiritual life, is all the same thing. It is all a commitment to growth, to wholeness, to being your best, to living life fully and gratefully starting from where you are right now!” (Jinjee)
“Making amends without forgiveness leads to dishonesty and lies.” (Anon)
“Everyone who’s human deserves to be treated with some dignity – whether they’ve done good things or bad things, they have to be given hope.”
“When you stop resenting what anther person can’t give you, you begin to appreciate what they have to offer.” (Anon)
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” (Mark Twain)
“The fact that Christianity is a religion of love makes every evangelizer the teller of a love story, the singer of a love song. By example as well as by words evangelizers must be teachers of love.” (from John Paul II and the New Evangelization)
“The power of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing.” (Blaise Pascal)
“When people envy me I think, Oh God, don’t envy me, I have my own pains.” (Barbra Streisand)
“He paints the lily of the field, perfumes each lily bell; if He so loves the little flowers, I know He loves me well.” (Maria Strauss)
“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts f people.” (Mother Teresa)
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” (Thomas Fuller)